Imagine having several of North America’s and Scandinavia’s most acclaimed seafood chefs working to shine in a collaborative dinner. Then, imagine that the theme was using sustainable, local ingredients in a fine dining format. Further imagine that your dining companions are all either foodies, food writers, chefs, food photogs from around the world. This was the intensely special concept of The Terroir Symposium’s Best Practice Culinary Mission to St. John’s, Newfoundland , held at the chic Raymonds, listed in some publications at “Canada’s Best Restaurant”. The restaurant is housed in a 1915 classic British bank-style building. The interior decor is a mix of splashy chandeliers and modern touches: a foot in each era. The main dining room has a good bit of brightness, so you can see and enjoy your dinner. I was happy to be hosted to experience it!
Speaking to food experts who had a lot of experience eating collaborative chef meals, this was a masterpiece. Some of these other meals can have chefs serving whatever it is they feel like making, without regard to the rest of the menu, the flow of the menu, the flavors or the diner’s capacity. Some meals have things like paprikas followed by sushi followed by pasta. Crazy! Well, the flow of this meal was so smooth, it could have been directed by one chef under one roof.
I also enjoyed hearing the experts’ insights as to who was best adhering to the theme, both in execution and spirit . . .
The first course was “snacks” from the participating chefs and also, Anders Selmer of Copenhagen’s Fiskebaren. Here’s what we ate: Razor clam, skewered whelk, sunflower seed and mussel risotto, mackerel daikon and smoked soy sauce, sea urchin, caviar and cod sound doughnut, crispy chicken skin portulak, sea urchin. They were globally inspired, locally sourced. The sea urchin was like a foie gras on sweet bread. Wild sage and “Labrador tea” were part of the garnishes.
The second course was oysters as prepared by Chef Frida Ronge, of vRA in Gothenburg, Sweden. Having traveled to Gothenburg myself, I can tell you it’s a sophisticated, yet fun loving foodie town. There was a poached St. Simone oyster with dashi, mirin (a combination of vinegar and simple syrup) and sake; crispy Black Pearl oyster with dill, horseradish, lemon; Tray oyster with ponzu, sushi su, pickled cucumber. These were served with Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve 2008, Nova Scotia, Canada. The poached oyster was almost like chicken. The fried oyster was interestingly batter-fried. The sushi style one had a pungent flavor, almost pickled itself.
The third course was scallop, as prepared by Chef Jamie Malone of Brut in Minneapolis. They were nearly live scallops, silkily tender and so fresh as to be sweet. It was served with Norman Hardie Calcaire 2010, Ontario, Canada.
The fourth course was lobster and snow crab, as prepared by the co-owner of the restaurant, Chef Jeremy Charles, Raymonds, Newfoundland, Canada. It was lobster and snow crab crustace, squid, periwinkle, parsnip, bay oil, paired with Norman Hardie County Riesling 2013, Ontario, Canada. Lobster bisque was theatrically poured over the dish at the table. It was tender yet firm sweet seafood, creamy foam.
The fifth course was cod, as served by Chef Magnus Ek of Oaxen Krog & Slip, Stockholm, Sweden. The restaurant is on one of the world-class city’s archipelago islands. The dish was brined cod, emulsion of scallop roe and spruce, Jerusalem artichoke, shore greens paired with Norman Hardie County Chardonnay 2013, Ontario, Canada. The cod had different distinct textrues: crispy and tender. The greens were foraged that day and spruce potato chips were like being outdoors! It was like the most gourmet fish and chips you ever had!
The sixth course (!) was trout, prepared by Chef Ned Bell, Executive Chef at the Four Seasons Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Chef Bell brought attention to sustainable fish by biking across Canada! All of it! He’s very athletic . . . the night before, he had walked me back to my hotel up a mighty hill. I barely made it alive! I had about 3 different kinds of asthma attacks. Chef Bell served lightly smoked trout, partridgeberry (which is pretty much a lingonberry), hazelnut, celeriac, parsnip, vanilla butter noir. It was paired with Norman Hardie County Pinot Noir 2012, Ontario, Canada. It was a stunning trout! It was crisp outside, tender inside, with bacon-y grill flavors. The vanilla lended almost a caramel note. The trout meat was orange. The tart berries balanced things, while the parsnip was amazing. My mom used to make yucky mashed parsnips in the mid ’70’s, complete with skim milk and diet margarine. I stayed away from the root veggie since then, but this changed my mind 100%. Indeed, I went home and roasted a parsnip, which was tasty though I didn’t cook it right.
The seventh course, the dessert course, was sweet and sour rhubarb with raw honey, elderflower and anise, as prepared by pastry Chefs Clesset Mah and Sarah Villamere, Raymonds, Newfoundland, Canada. It was paired with Rollingdale Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine 2013, British Columbia, Canada. The presentation was cool, like a fried egg in gravel.
A post dinner cocktail was iced with a piece of iceberg!